November 13, 2005
When I'm in London my father will ask: "What's the weather like?" I tell him it's perfect: overcast and rainy. There's no expectation to be in a good mood and everyone looks less optimistic. Of course, he doesn't relate to this. He lives in Bali, where it's sunny every day. And when it's not sunny it soon will be. When we were in France on vacation it rained for 24 hours and it affected his mood. To cheer him up, I said at least he didn't have to worry about skin cancer, but that didn't seem to give him the boost I'd intended. The next day the sun shone and he was back to his usual positive self. I said I thought he had seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
and he gave me his "not another syndrome" look. I'm used to this look.
I think I've got a special case of SAD. When the weather's nice I panic.
Instead of feeling on top of the world, I want to go back to bed. There are too many options. When it's raining, nobody expects you to go out or pays attention to what you're wearing. There's a lot less pressure to be cheerful. I should live somewhere like Siberia. The sun never comes out and people must sleep all the time. The only problem is, lately I've been having terrible insomnia. So there I'd be in Siberia, wide awake, with nobody to talk to and nothing to do. Sounds a lot like my life now. Except I'd have frostbite. And I'm not a night person, either. Not having bright daylight is one thing; not having daylight at all is another. I need to know when the day's over: how else will I know it's been wasted?
Imagine my dismay when I read that the Met Office wants to make the forecast more upbeat. What's happening to the world? Does everything need a positive spin? If people want their weather happy they should move to Disney World. Now, instead of it being "chilly in areas", it will be "warm in most". Instead of "occasional showers", it will be "mainly dry". Why not just say "mainly not gloomy"? Or "the weather will suck - we just don't want you to think about it"? It's yet another thing we have to decipher.
Like if a real-estate ad says "great lobby", it means the apartment is a coffin with no closet space. Or if a personal ad says "adventurous", it means likely to sleep with your best friend.
When forecasters say "mostly dry" we'll expect it to be, and then when it rains we won't have an umbrella, so on top of being emotionally unprepared we'll have ruined our favourite boots. It's far more practical to be negative. Forecast storms every day; if it's sunny it's a pleasant surprise. But false hope is important. I need to start telling people that I'm not a negative person, just mainly not seeing the positive. Instead of assuming I'll die alone in my apartment, which has a "great lobby", I'll expect to die with a bunch of wonderful people nowhere near me.